***This review contains spoilers***
And here we have another great read from Samantha Shannon! So many authors trip over the concept of a sequel, tumbling and bumbling until they manage to get their readers through it and finish breathlessly with a nasty cliffhanger, which opens the way for them to give it another go. This isn't the case with Shannon, however, much to my delight! While there's certainly a cliffhanger at the end (oh yes, there's a cliffhanger all right...), it ends things off with a stylish flair that doesn't need to try and make up for anything that came previously. So, let's dig in, shall we?
Getting back into the world of Voyants...
We picked up right where we left off in The Bone Season -- a smart move, since there's no way the crew of rebel voyants could have just snuck back into SciLo on a Scion-controlled train without anyone the wiser. Thus, we get a fanfare of action, chaos, thrills & spills, and lots of loose ends for Paige to work on tracking down right off the bat. As with the first book, Paige is our leading lady and the story is told entirely from her perspective. Since we're back in Scion-dominated London now, there's some additional world-building going on to give us a deeper sense of the workings of the Syndicate. So, we learn about the cutthroat structure of the Cohorts and the mime-lords and mime-queens who rule them. Already having been introduced to the tempestuous and controlling Jaxon Hall and his band of gifted voyants, we find the further understanding of how things work here easier to grasp.
All in all, Shannon's leg-work to get us reacquainted with Paige's alternate London is well executed. Some may have little patience with the breadth and depth of information being thrown our way, but it's really interesting stuff, as our dear author has constructed a truly fascinating underground consortium of clairvoyant gangsters.
Our Leading Lady
I personally am a big fan of Paige. She's smart, serious, and doesn't have to fall back on her looks to make herself interesting. Honestly, she's a touch on the reticent side for a main character, but it doesn't impair our connection with her. Also, while she has a unique gift and is growing into a power that is clearly exceptional, she is really the sum of her parts. Her role as a Dreamwalker makes her stand out for us and the world around her, but it's matched by her personality, history, sense of justice, and determination.
In The Mime Order, Paige undergoes some serious character development. Being an early book, this is where a lot of it's going to happen, so bear with the girl and allow her to learn as she goes -- which she does! There isn't much about our favorite mollisher that could be called innocent or naïve, but her perceptions and relationships evolve dramatically over the course of the 500-something pages we have here. There are some big lessons in store for Paige, and she has to pick them up quickly. Luckily, she is who she is, and having been subjected to the horrors of Sheol I, Paige is not about to sit on her hands and wait for things to turn out for the better. She is the type of hero who strives to be proactive, though she's forced to be reactive a great deal as well.
So, is our dearest Paige up to snuff in her second appearance? She sure is!
Do we get to see Warden again? Shannon led us to believe that it might be quite a while before the human-friendly Rephaim would return. I had thought we wouldn't be seeing him for another book or two ... Nope! He's back, and all those throbbing, awkward questions reappear when Paige is confronted with her former keeper. Their relationship progresses in this book more quickly then I'd anticipated. In part, I'd hoped it would go a little more slowly, but it felt natural at the same time. Their move toward greater intimacy isn't rushed or forced, and it just gives you a happy feeling to know that these two wonderful characters are finding a way to share something special even if they must hide it to survive.
Judgment? Paige and Warden are good mush. Even though I'm more than halfway convinced that one or both of them are going to die before this is over, I'll be a proper fangirl and ship them all the way!
I say it all the time: I have a hard time liking a book unless it has a great ending. Shannon doesn't disappoint in The Mime Order!
We have an ending in two parts. All along in this installment we've had two very important plot threads weaving in, out, and all around: Paige's determination to do something about the dastardly Syndicate, and the ongoing threat of Nashira and her followers. First up is Paige's gambit to take control of the underground world of voyants. She knows that united, the Syndicate is a powerful army of gifted wielders of various schools of clairvoyance. If she can get them to work together, then they may have a chance of facing the Rephaim. Unfortunately, uniting this lot of scheming, self-serving, back-stabbing mercenaries is hard enough for the Underlord to accomplish (if he ever actually put the effort in to do it, that is), never mind a mollisher just really coming to understand her own abilities. The Scrimmage is a nail-bitingly awesome scene that shows off the worst side of the mime-lords & mime-queens as they vie for dominance. Paige faces a challenge that she isn't sure she has the strength to overcome. The knowledge of what's at stake keeps her from taking the easy out, however. Good for her!
The second plot line -- the issue of the Sargas -- comes up at the very end, following the conclusion of the nerve-fraying Scrimmage. Now, remembering that this is only the second book in a series that's meant to span seven, we know that we're not going to see a resolution here. Right? Paige is still recovering from the bloody debacle that led to the crowning of a new Underqueen, and Nashira is still as powerful and mean-spirited as ever. We get treated to some uplifting moments, tricking us into hoping that the blood-sovereign is about to get her nose rearranged, and Paige further proves her growing mastery of her dreamwalking abilities. All good stuff! Not to give too much away (ha!), there's some trash-talking, lots of tension, and that twisty cliffhanger previously mentioned. You're going to want to throw your book/tablet at the wall when you get to that last, big reveal. Although I could see things kind of leading up to it, I totally and completely feel your frustration. Anyone who wants to vent is welcome to leave a comment (please keep it clean).
I absolutely loved the convoluted structure and politics of the Syndicate, and the professional names of the high-ranking voyants are fabulous -- The Wicked Lady, Bramble Briar, The Rag and Bone Man, The Jacobite, The Abbess ... just to name a few! Shannon's creativity really shines.
Paige and Warden continue to be endearing characters, and their very realistic view of each other and what is happening around them sets them apart from other book couples. They aren't wearing blindfolds. Paige isn't forgiving or forgetting the treatment Warden allowed her to suffer in Sheol I, and they both know that anything between them is fleeting and has the potential to destroy them and all they're fighting for. It's a very mature relationship that's built on understanding and respect as well as affection.
In closing, I just have to mention that the book had a strong V for Vendetta feel to it. The corrupt tyranny of Scion, the underdog voyants fighting for survival and -- eventually -- freedom, and a hero who is willing to make the tough calls necessary in leadership during a time of war. I really appreciated it!
Thank you Samantha Shannon! I'm looking forward to next time ... Bravo!